Suite Française


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Matthies Schoenaerts in Suite Française
"The film looks right but feels strangely familiar"

Love thy enemy as oneself. Or words to that effect.

In a small town in central France during the occupation this is a dangerous desire. Women without men is a powder keg, like men without women, only quieter.

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The Germans are ridiculously polite. An officer (Matthias Schoenaerts) asks the daughter-in-law (Michelle Williams) of his billeted landlady (Kristin Scott Thomas) whether she minds if he smokes in the garden. Everyone did it then, all over the place, even in bed and before breakfast. No one asked permission.

The officers and natives communicate in English. The uncommissioned soldiers speak German, with subtitles. Odd? Cinematic licence, you might say.

The daughter-in-law's husband is somewhere off screen, being captured and interned. The German officer's wife is in The Fatherland. He says she's not a problem, meaning she has a lover, or something worse that keeps her out of the picture.

He plays the piano. She does, too. He composes music. She listens. Obviously they will kiss. The sky doesn't fall. She isn't dragged off and shot.

You know where this is going. Or you think you do. Suddenly the mood changes. The Germans get nasty. Love turns the colour of midnight and good manners are replaced by the firing squad.

Based on Irene Nemirovsky's famous unfinished novel, discovered in an attic 60 years after she was killed at Auschwitz, the film looks right but feels strangely familiar. Williams is pitch perfect. Schoenaerts remains controlled and self-disciplined throughout.

The novel was written while all this stuff was going on which gives it credibility and pathos. The romantic imagination of a thirtysomething immigrant from Kiev may lack the tension of Anne Frank's diary but is genuine nevertheless.

If wishes could fly there would be no need for angels.

Reviewed on: 12 Mar 2015
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During the early years of German occupation of France, romance blooms between Lucile Angellier, a French villager, and Bruno von Falk, a German officer.
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Director: Saul Dibb

Writer: Matt Charman, Saul Dibb, based on the novel by Irène Némirovsky

Starring: Michelle Williams, Matthias Schoenaerts, Kristin Scott Thomas, Margot Robbie, Ruth Wilson, Sam Riley, Lambert Wilson, Harriet Walter, Eileen Atkins, Tom Schilling

Year: 2014

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, France, Canada


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